It’s a cute, small experience that draws some hefty questions on how we frame dialogue in games and how we frame the idea of a non-player character
In The City Haze, every written piece of dialogue was left there by other players. It’s almost a sort of passive-MMO, not unlike the infamous bloodstain feature leveraged in FROM Software’s INFAMOUSLY HARD SWORD PERSON MONSTER game (don’t make me say the name!) [Editor’s Note: It’s a very souls-like experience] but here you actually write the dialogue word for word yourself, instead of choosing from mix-n-match phrase presets.
It lends the otherwise simple experience an elegant charm, and with the ability to play it inside of the browser the labor of entry is low. Maybe you’ll write a quick thought, perhaps a greeting, a dream you had, or you may even find that one of these small fragments will be poignant enough for you to reflect upon something personal. Faceless chat rooms give us an opportunity to speak our minds, and when done so passively it reduces the friction one typically encounters when they know someone is on the other side of the screen.
The City Haze does beg the question, when we reach a sufficient level of convincing simulation for bots in social environments, will the MMORPGs of the future be populated by the ghosts of bygone thoughts? Sentiment without form? Only time will tell.
Emily Rose is an indie developer who writes for rebind.io and resides in the pacific northwest. She’s often seen in the local VR arcade and developer community participating in pushing the medium’s horizons. You can find her on twitter @caravanmalice